"Greyhounds make great pets and companions. They are gentle 40-mile per hour couch potatoes," according to Michael McCann past president of The Greyhound Project. The organization is dedicated to finding forever homes for retired racing Greyhounds. There are 19 Greyhound racing tracks, but that number may soon drop to five due to pending legislation in Florida and West Virginia that may force closures. That would cause the number of gentle Greyhounds in need of forever homes to swell by thousands. April's National Adopt a Greyhound Month is an extremely important cause.
Early cave drawings over 8,000 years old depict the elegant breed. Popularity continued through the years. The Egyptians worshiped Greyhounds as gods. According to legend, Cleopatra had coursing Greyhounds. The dogs were so revered that images of Greyhounds appear on the tomb walls of Egyptian kings. Admiration of the breed has endured, and today Greyhounds are regarded as desirable gentle companions.
Greyhounds available through adoption organizations are usually trained athletes that have retired from a career of racing. Greyhounds destined to become racers are generally bred on "farms" by professional breeders. They live together with their litter mates and other young Greyhounds for the first year of life.
From the time they are born, Greyhound pups get lots of attention and are frequently handled by their owners and farm staff who feed, groom, and clean up after them. Trainers, veterinarians, and many others, even children, are part of their formative year. Consequently, Greyhounds are surprisingly socialized to people and strangers. However, they are not exposed to other breeds of dogs and often find them strange.
Retired racing Greyhounds are quite docile and loving. They quickly and easily adapt into family life with a little guidance from a new pet parent. They are very sociable and willing to please when they know your desires. Greyhounds are very clean, but they do shed. Their short coat is less of a problem than that of long-haired dogs.
Because Greyhounds have a very thin coat and very body little fat, they have little protection from winter cold or summer heat. They are strictly house dogs. A Greyhound needs a coat or sweater if the temperature drops below 32°. Every dog is different and some need winter wear at much warmer temperatures. If a pup is shivering he definitely needs a heavier coat or to be taken inside.
Shade is essential in the summer as Greyhounds need to be able to escape direct sunlight. A ready supply of cool water is a must. Heavy panting is a sure sign that a dog is too hot. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are potential hazards on hot summer days.
Greyhounds have been bred to hunt and chase for thousands of years and the instinct remains strong. Their keen eyesight can spot the movement of a small animal ½ mile or even farther away. If a Greyhound sees a small creature he will chase it. It is instinctive. He can reach 45 miles per hour in a few strides. An Olympic sprinter could not catch him. Neither can his owner.
Obviously, a Greyhound owner must have a safe fenced area or be prepared to walk his dog on leash for potty breaks several times each day. That means going out in the rain and snow as well as the sunshine.
A Greyhound should never be tied outside on a rope or chain. There is a danger that he may become tangled and injured or worse. He might see a squirrel that needs chasing. If he takes off at a dangerously fast speed after a small animal, he risks serious injury or even death when he reaches the end of the line.
Greyhounds are gentle, affectionate, social dogs that make loving and loyal companions. A Greyhound enjoys curling on the couch beside his owner and resting his elegant head on a comfy lap. A word of warning. All Greyhounds love soft couches and beds. That includes a human's bed. If you think a couch potato dog capable of occasional incredible bursts of speed may be the dog for you, contact your local Greyhound adoption organization to learn more about these truly remarkable dogs.
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With a Ph.D. in Biological sciences from the University of Texas in Austin and a masters in Zoology from Southern Illinois University, Dr. Sue is devoted to the care and massaging of pets. Read her articles here.